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Sunday, June 12, 2022

Breaking News: Coastal Class War erupts

Charlestown Chunks #5

By Will Collette

Charlestown budget passes

Dick Sartor got his budget, "Oopsie" and all
In case you haven’t heard, 1,172 residents voted, mostly by mail, and approved Charlestown’s roughly $15 million operating budget by a margin of 978  to 194.

I was one of the 194 no votes and explained in detail why I did HERE. I wanted to cast a vote of no confidence with the Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s screwed up financial management, most exemplified by the “Million-Dollar Oopsie.” I also object to funding Charlestown’s continued institutional racism and constant attacks on the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

I hope that answers CCA resident pundit Mikey Chambers who wanted to know why anyone would vote no to a $8.18 tax rate, one of the lowest in the state, if you ignore how you get NO municipal services for your tax money.

The Great Coastal Class War comes out into the open

Shellfish skirmishes

Two issues being considered in the final days of this General Assembly term really highlight how much class drives controversy along our shoreline.

In addition to the bill that would change, slightly to the better, citizen access to the beach, another bill pits the rich against aquaculture workers.

H8244 would block the Coastal Resources Management Council from granting aquaculture leases within 1,000 feet of the mean high tide line. That would effectively close shellfish farms in Charlestown and in the rest of the coast’s salt ponds.

Even though science shows aquaculture is a safe and effective way to remove pollution from the ponds, many coastal property owners just can’t stand to see working people in the water near their homes. CCA leader Leo Mainelli said so some years back speaking against an oyster farm proposal in front of his Quonnie home.

Before and after: to the left, pond water without oysters and to the right, well, vive la difference

In addition to cleaning the water, Rhode Island aquaculture is a major boost to our economy by creating lots of jobs and generating significant revenue. It’s just that rich people hate watching people making an honest living.

Rep. Jay Edwards of Tiverton sponsored the bill, on behalf of constituents who want to block an oyster farm by John and Patrick Bowen because it might spoil their water view. The bill could just as easily have come from Blake “Flip” Filippi.

Oyster farmer John Bowen testified:

"Often the most wealthy, and sometimes newcomers to a community they have recently discovered, they are well-prepared, financially and otherwise, to fight to maintain what they believe to be theirs…The coastal waters of Rhode Island belong to the state, not to those who live on the waterfront… see it for what it is – an attempt by the wealthy to control what they don’t own."

Bill sponsor Jay Edwards says he will “substantially revise” his bill but there isn’t enough time to pass a bill as this General Assembly session nears a close.

Beach battles

Not yet
The bill codifying shoreline access breezed through the House with a unanimous vote, but now faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

No one has introduced a Senate version. The Senate leadership does not seem to support it, arguing there isn’t time to hold hearings before the General Assembly adjourns. 

South Kingstown Senators Sue Sosnowski and Bridget Valverde say passage is unlikely this year because of unresolved issues such as the moving tide line, an issue discussed in detail HERE.

But the elephant in the room is the mobilized political power of rich coastal property owners. They don’t want any aquaculture workers behind their coastal homes and they certainly don’t want any hoi polloi from Providence in front of them.

They have organized a group called Shoreline Taxpayers Association for Respectful Traverse, Environmental Responsibility and Safety  (doo-dah, doo-dah) and hired lawyer-lobbyist Chris Boyle to protect their million dollar-plus properties from any change to existing legal protocols.

Boyle’s argument:

“We believe when applying Rhode Island and U.S. Supreme Court decisions this amounts to a taking of private property. When property is taken, government needs to compensate,”

Filippi's beach blocking fence. Read more in the Block Island Times. 
Interestingly, bill co-sponsor Flip Filippi is also taking a class-warfare tack, arguing the Senate should not allow moneyed interests to prevail over the will of the people.

Nice sentiment for sure, but Flip is a Trumplican, not a populist, and he himself has blocked off beach access in front of his Block Island properties in the past. Well, these inconsistencies are good examples for why I call him “Flip,” a man of no fixed values other than his own self-aggrandizement. He faces strong opposition in November from Charlestown Democrat Tina Spears.

Filippi finally takes a stand on guns

This is what an AR-15 bullet does when fired into ballistic jelly.
Now imagine that bullet hitting a small child.
Staying on the subject of Flip, I have been calling him out for failing to take a stand on guns after the obscene slaughter of children and adults in mass shootings.

The General Assembly has a bevy of sensible proposals to curb gun violence, although the House and Senate leadership took the chicken-shit route of blocking a vote to BAN assault weapons.

Nonetheless, on Thursday, three bills came up for a crucial first vote in the House Judiciary Committee which would:

• Prohibit the sale or possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

• Raise the age to buy a firearm or ammunition from 18 to 21.

• Prohibit the carrying of loaded rifles and shotguns in public.

Flip voted NO to all. It’s not like his position was ever in doubt. He has always been a gun nut, even going so far as to support illegal armed private militias. It’s just that his silence after Uvalde was deafening.

But his “no” votes show the Flipper, unaffected by the murder of children, has regained his Trumplican aplomb. He argued especially hard against the bill to ban high-capacity magazines arguing this was unfair to gun nuts who already own high-capacity magazines.

The three bills passed the full House on Saturday with Filippi again voting NO. He needs to be held accountable at the polls this November. He faces strong opposition in November from Charlestown Democrat Tina Spears.

Monkey Pox!!!!  And other stuff to worry about.

The RI Health Department reports that a Providence-area man in his 30’s has tested positive for monkey pox. He joined a Massachusetts resident whose diagnosis was announced by the CDC on Wednesday. The US has 39 reported cases.

The Connecticut Health Department announced last Tuesday that an elderly woman died from Powassan virus, one of the several nasty diseases you can get from a tick bites. Ticks are always nasty but it seems to me that there are a lot more of them this year. Read the article HERE to see how awful it is to die of Powassan virus. Be really careful of ticks! The little bastards are trying to kill you.

Finally, COVID is still infecting several hundred Rhode Islanders every day just going by the official numbers and not counting the many more whose home tests show positive readings. 

The new Omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5, continue to increase their share of new infections, a trend that will continue since they mutated to be better able to penetrate antibody defenses from vaccinations and prior infections. Mask up, get your shots and be smart.

“Let RI Vote Act” passes and is signed into law

One of the pandemic’s few positives is the way it has led many Blue states to make it easier to vote. The General Assembly just passed and McKee signed the Let RI Vote Act which will do the following, according to a State House news release:

The legislation makes mail voting easier by allowing online mail ballot applications, and permitting any voter to use a mail ballot or an emergency mail ballot without needing an excuse for why they can’t visit their polling location on Election Day.

It also drops the requirement that mail ballots be either signed by two witnesses or notarized. Instead, voters’ signatures will be verified using their registration records using a four-tiered verification process.

The bill requires every municipality to maintain at least one drop box where voters can deposit their ballots securely through the close of polls on Election Day.

Additionally, the act allows nursing home residents to opt in to automatically receive applications for mail ballots for every subsequent election.

One of the Act’s earliest and biggest boosters was Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea who is running for Governor. One of the Act’s major opponents was, of course, Charlestown’s own state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi who led Trumplican attacks on the Act.

Watch out, Justin. They’re coming

Guilty, by his own words. He also can't count.
As the January 6 hearings begin to be broadcast in prime time, maybe we’ll get a chance to spot Richmond Rep. Justin Price in the crowd videos. Price is a right-wing nut who initially tweeted about taking part in the attempted coup. His Twitter account was quickly suspended.

The FBI is far from finished busting the traitors who tried to overthrow the government on January 6, having just arrested Ryan Kelly, Trumplican candidate for Governor of Michigan for breaching the Capitol grounds.

Justin Price also was there, though he claims he never actually entered the Capitol building. He did claim, however, that he got close enough to claim he identified the leaders of the riot as Antifa members.

He had to be well inside police lines to be able to identify anyone entering the Capitol building. Aside from the debunked far-right conspiracy theory that the mob was led by Antifa, there’s something else Price has never explained.

He portrays himself as a rough, tough, patriotic ex-Marine, yet he claims to have seen what he considered to be enemies of this country committing the vile act of storming the Capitol and he did nothing! What about the oath he swore to defend this country from all enemies, foreign or domestic?

Here are some of the claims Price made via Twitter about Antifa - so if he believed this to be true WHY did he do nothing? 

Democrat Megan Cotter is taking a second shot at taking Price's House District 39 seat away from him and deserves your support. 

Legal Cannabis

Marijuana is on the agenda at the Monday, June 13 Charlestown Town Council meeting.

Councilors will act on a resolution to place the question of licensing cannabis retail establishments in town on the November ballot. Personally, I think the Narragansetts should seriously consider re-purposing the old Smoke Shop on Route 2.

But first, under the new state statute that kicks in on December 1, municipalities need to put the question to the voters.

Here’s how the state law describes this process:

Meanwhile, South County’s first medical marijuana dispensary is opening up in South Kingstown.

The “Sweetspot Dispensary” will be located on Pershing Avenue in South Kingstown, but it will not sell product from that location. Sales will be by delivery only to avoid the need to get special permits from the town.

Plant Based Compassionate Care, one of the businesses pulled from a state lottery last fall, announced Friday that Sweetspot Dispensary would open on Pershing Avenue in South Kingstown.

But there won’t be any cannabis on site at that location, allowing the business to side-step any requirements to get special use zoning permit from the town. They are still in negotiations with the town to win approval for on-site retail. 

Now that recreational marijuana is legal, Sweetspot could be first in line for a license to sell cannabis for personal use when the new law kicks in on December 1. However, that also depends on what the company can work out with the town.

4th quake in a month rattles (barely) southern RI

Screenshot from WPRI
On Saturday night at 8:52 PM, a small 1.6 Richter scale quake “struck” near Portsmouth and was felt by some residents of Portsmouth, Bristol, Barrington and East Providence.

The three earlier similarly mild quakes were all centered around one point off the Narragansett coast at some distance from the center of this latest quake.

These recent quakes are neither unusual nor a cause of concern

URI Professor of Geosciences Brian Savage told WPRI “we shouldn’t be concerned as we really have not had a large earthquake here…New England has faults which are hundreds of millions of years old, existing from when parts of New England were connected to Africa. Occasionally those faults slip, resulting in small earthquakes.”